Self-Compassion Improves Depression, Well-Being, and A1C Levels
What to Know
Managing diabetes is tough and stressful, and sometimes, despite your best efforts, your blood glucose rises or you develop a complication that you had worked hard to avoid. That can be demoralizing and may lead you to harshly criticize yourself. But such negative reactions may leave you less motivated to stick to your diabetes management program. In this study, researchers investigated whether people with diabetes could improve their self-care and their health through self-compassion, the practice of treating oneself with kindness and without judgment while acknowledging and accepting one’s flaws as an inevitable part of being human.
Researchers in Australia recruited 310 volunteers who had diabetes: two-thirds had type 1 and a third had type 2. Their average age was 37, and 81 percent were women. Nearly half used insulin therapy, while about a third managed their diabetes with diet and exercise. Each of them completed several questionnaires meant to measure their levels of self-compassion, how well they managed their diabetes, their psychological well-being, their sense of control over their health, and their A1C levels (an average of blood glucose levels over the previous three months).
Compared with those who viewed themselves less compassionately, the participants with greater self-compassion reported less depression, higher energy, and other measures of psychological well-being, as well as slightly lower A1C levels. They also did a better job at sticking to their self-care plan. In particular, they were more likely to be physically active, get medical checkups, and manage their blood glucose levels.
“The demands of managing diabetes emphasize the need for self-compassion,” the study authors write. Their results bear this out. How can you be kinder to yourself? Accept that setbacks will occur. Then, rather than ignore them or scold yourself for what may be beyond your control, be less judgmental of yourself. That attitude may better equip you to handle the challenges of diabetes and make you more resilient when faced with complications. With enough practice, such self-compassion could lead to better health and a greater sense of well-being.
“Self-compassion is associated with optimum self-care behavior, medical outcomes and psychological well-being in a cross-sectional sample of adults with diabetes.” M. Ferrari, M. Dal Cin, and M. Steele. Diabetic Medicine, published online August 11, 2017.